The Westminster Catechism, both the shorter and longer versions begin with the same question: What is the chief and highest end of man?
The answer is: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God [a], and fully to enjoy him forever [b].
The biblical proofs being:
[a]. Psalm 86:9; Isaiah 60:21; Romans 11:36; First Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Revelation 4:11 [b]. Psalm 16:5-11; 144:15; Isaiah 12:2; Luke 2:10; Philemon 1:4; Revelation 21:3-4
No matter how much Bible you study or theology and doctrine you immerse yourself into, as soon as you put down the book, you are faced with the reality of living in a fleshy body in a fallen world. There is no escaping it. Yet this is precisely why God has given us His Holy Bible as a guide for our lives. The Bible is important to God, as Psalm 138:2b says: “for You have magnified Your Word above all Your name.” In other words, God holds His Word higher than His own name. That makes it important to Him and doubly important for us!
The New Testament also affirms, as if affirmation is needed, how worthy and useful is the living Word of God, as Second Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Interestingly, God is not search of our minds, but our hearts. He wants our hearts to turn to Him and when we do that, all the rest of us will follow. Psalm 51:17 spells this our loud and clear explaining that: “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Why is this? It is because God knows that argument can change a mind, but leave a heart untouched. Thus when the enemy comes along with a more or better logical reason why we need to change our mind, our mind may well change.
God therefore look inside, as Isaiah 57:15 says “For so says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity; whose name is Holy; ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, even with the contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’“ This is reinforced in Isaiah 66:2b where we read Jehovah saying, “but to this one I will look, to the afflicted and contrite spirit, and the one who trembles at My Word.”
We can see from this that it is not only that which we do outwardly and publicly which is considered pleasing to God, but that which we do when we are alone and unobserved by others. Indeed, this is how in Matthew 6:6 Jesus instructed His disciples to pray saying: “But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.”
Like any endeavour, there are many ways to proceed; some quickly, some more slowly. Developing our relationship with the living God is one endeavour which will develop at God’s pace, not ours. There are those whom God appears to bless with a meteoric rise in relationship, while at the same time, leaving others on the slowm, back burner. We need to recognise that the reasons for this are God’s and His alone – and He does not need to share them with us. God has His own plans for our lives and plans for the overall picture of the world, with us, or without us; for to enter into a relationship with God means dropping all the baggage of our fleshy nature. This takes time, and some of us take longer than other to accomplish it. However, at the same time, God wants us to remain humble and avoid the prig of pride from entering us, as we mistakenly see the changes in us coming from our works, rather than from God’s works in us.
Nevertheless, it is possible and indeed valuable to have a structured routine which will eventually build a Godly demeanour and lifestyle in us, a change which comes gradually and naturally and for which we can take no credit. Why no credit? Because the Holy Bible has already listed out that which we need to do; all we need, is to have it shown and explained to us, such that we can follow it.
Paul said in Romans 10:17 “Then faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The simplest way to hear the Word of God is to read it aloud! The first time I read the Bible cover to cover, I soon got stuck on the pronunciation of all the Old Testament names. The solution was swift and educational: read along and hear the Word as someone else speaks it out. So I went to Bible.com and listened to the King James Bible read by British dramatist, Alexander Scourby. It was a treat to the ears, the Spirit and the soul. After many sessions I learned how to pronounce the names for myself and slowly but surely, and perhaps not surprisingly, the Bible characters of old came to life for me.
Since then, I have found that reading the bible out loud is a much better way to absorb it, for speaking and listening add two more senses which are immediately touched by the word. It really makes the words come alive, in a way which silent reading, just cannot.
Paul also gave us advice on this matter in Colossians 3:16 “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” As God’s people in the Old Testament were advised to mediate on His Word (Joshua 1:8), so are we as First Timothy 4:9-16 says:
“Faithful is the Word, and worthy of all acceptance. For to this we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the preserver of all men, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things.
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Until I come, attend to reading, to exhortation, to teaching.
Do not neglect the gift in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the body of elders.
Meditate on these things; be in these things in order that your improvement may appear to all. Hold on to yourself and to the doctrine; continue in them, for doing this you shall both save yourself and those who hear you.”
Meditating on the Word of God means continual reading and thought about the words. It means asking the Holy Spirit to explain difficult passages and it means getting organised in a reading plan, of which many are freely available online.
Thinking came up earlier as a part of meditation on the Word. However, our mission is not to memorise the Bible as a rote memory exercise, but to understand it from God’s perspective. Satan knows the Bible, probably better than most, if not all of mankind, and was very keen to test Jesus with it, just as he had tested Eve with God’s words in the Garden of Eden. Quoting the bible is no sign of being a good Christian, for even Satan can do that. We need to know the Bible and live it. We need to know the Bible so when the enemy starts to misuse and abuse the scripture to us, we can recognise his trap, as Jesus did, and not fall, as Eve did.
Just because someone says “Well, the Bible says……, ” does not mean it is correct. The Lord has shown to me that even well known author’s can and do misuse Bible texts to further their arguments and in doing so, take them out of context and bend their meaning to the point of heresy. The more we read and the more we allow the Holy Spirit to draw our attention to these wayward practices, the better we are prepared to correctly interpret the Word of God and pass it on unsullied to a younger generation of Christians.
Proverbs 27:17 gives grist to this mill saying: “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the face of his friend.” In other words, we sharpen and correct our understanding of God’s Word when we talk about it with our friends and when share it. As Mark 13:11 says “but whenever they lead you away and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what you should speak or think . But speak whatever shall be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speaks, but the Holy Spirit.” Sharing, allows the Holy Spirit to come and take over a teaching or preaching and allows revelation to take place. In Galatians 1:11-12 Paul confirms this happening to him as he says “and, brothers, I make known to you the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it except by a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Make no mistake, how Paul was taught – by the Holy Spirit – is still in full operation today. To receive this revelation, however, one needs to be in a place and in a mindset suitable for use by the Holy Spirit.
This is very important for us to understand, for as the deeper we get into the Bible and the hidden things of God which He reveals to us, we find ourselves entering the tricky areas of man-make Theology and Doctrine, over which men and women have literally ‘battled.’ Romans 14:1 gives us some guidance even on this saying: “And receive him who is weak in the faith, but not to judgements of your thoughts.” However, let the last words on this come from First Peter 4:11 “If anyone speaks, let it be as the words of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as of the ability which God gives, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory, and the might forever and ever. Amen.”
Theology is the study of God and it is a central part of Christian life. However, as we have seen earlier, God is not interested in our head-knowledge, but in our hearts. Our god is without a doubt a “relational God;” and even a cursory reading of the Old Testament will clarify that fact. Yes, it is good to know lots of facts about God, but the main point, and it is a point which the Hebrews as God’s chosen people seemed to miss, is that God so dearly and so earnestly wants to have a relationship with us.
Prayer is the means by which we enter into this personal one-on-one relationship with God, though He can and indeed does, communicate with us almost all the time, were we to but see it, and recognise it.
Jesus gave us a model prayer to pray, which has become known as The Lord’s Prayer. One of our articles “The Lord’s Prayer – A Wider Teaching,” expands on the magnificence of Jesus’s teaching on prayer and really opens our eyes to the width, breadth and depth of relationship which we can have with God through prayer, and what Jesus offers us in His teaching.
As Christians, we are to have faith in Jesus. Yet the Christian life is so much more than that. As James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” This is a warning to us not to sit on our Christian laurels, so to speak, but to go out and make a difference for Christ. This goes hand in hand with Matthew 25:31-46, a blunt warning and teaching of Jesus which cuts to the chase and to the core of the Christian being:
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory. And all nations shall be gathered before Him. And He shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. And indeed He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats off the left.Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.
Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You? Or thirsty, and gave You drink? When did we see You a stranger, and took You in? Or naked, and clothed You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You?
And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it to Me.
Then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.
Then they will also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?
Then He shall answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.”
Unfortunately the disciples of Jesus did not quite get the full message, such that after Pentecost, the disciples remained in Jerusalem and Acts 5:14 says, “the believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” yet they ventured no further than the city limits to execute the Great Commission to all the corners of the earth. As a result, as Acts 8:1 says, God allowed “at that time, a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
As a Christian, it matters not a jot about our theology or our doctrine or the size of Church we attend or any of a million other ways of assessing one’s Christianity, It all comes down to the words of Jesus as He says “Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”
Any lifestyle which does not outwardly express and reflect the lifestyle of Jesus is worthless and will lead only to “everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”
Now let us be clear here, these are not my words, nor my promises, but the very words and promises of Jesus Christ himself as recorded in the Word of God. To explain this message of Jesus more fully, I can do more that humbly suggest you listen to a unique message by Pastor Paul Washer preached in 2002 at a youth conference. The audience was in shock then and many audiences continue to be shocked by it today, yet all Pastor Paul was doing, was explaining about knowing God, as a Christian. It is absolutely worth a listen.
Amen and Amen.